Using a lake sediment mat sample from Lake Fryxell, Antarctica, different DNA extraction and purification methods were compared by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). Based on the analyses of cloned 16S rRNA gene sequences a high degree of as yet uncultured prokaryotes have been reported in this sample. Although the vast majority of these as yet uncultured organisms seem to be classified as representatives of Firmicutes, Proteobacteria and Bacteriodetes, many of these taxa should be regarded novel species as judged from the distance of their gene sequences to those of their nearest cultured phylogenetic neighbours. The physiological properties of cultured strains from Lake Fryxell and of those of described species that are phylogenetically affiliated to the as yet uncultured species from this environment, suggest the presence of a well developed food web of primary producers, anaerobic degraders and fermenters, and aerobes. The few novel species described from this sample add to the increasing number of species characterized from various Antarctic habitats. Determination of the phylogenetic relatedness of the mat clone sequences of Clostridia with recent entries into public databases revealed that many of the putative species are closely related to other putative species detected in a broad range of environments, ranging from rumen and gut, anaerobic and polluted soil to sediment and groundwater samples.